Thursday, October 2, 2014

What's it like to have cancer?

A few weeks ago when we started suspecting that I had cancer, I wondered, What does it feel like to have cancer? Not too long after that I found out that I did have cancer, and so I proud to say that I am now qualified to answer that question. 

(Not gonna lie, I tried googling what it's like to have cancer, but I still wasn't really able to get a clear idea.) So here's breakdown of what I've been feeling for the past few weeks. 

This symptom is numba one. I'm pretty much tired almost all of the time. It's bizarre, and I've kind of gotten used to it, but still frustrating. We live on the third floor, and every time I climb those stairs I am wiped out by the time I get to the top. Showering is a workout, so I usually take baths now (but if I do shower I have to take a breather afterword). Making a meal is challenging and I usually have to take breaks while cooking and/or have someone help me. I'm trying to stay active, so I like going on walks to the Provo Temple—but this is a huge feat. I need to catch my breath (from walking) when I get there, and also when I get back. I rest a lot, read a lot, and sleep a lot. Like 11 or 12 hours a night, plus the occasional nap in the afternoon. (see photos at the end of this post)

Being unhealthily skinny is not fun. I'm underweight right now, and I've lost 20 lbs in the past 6 months. No bueno. I am super-de-duper boney. I worry about my wedding ring sliding off whenever I wash my hands. My clothes really don't fit, so I look like a goon in anything but leggings. It has become so clear to me that being a size 0 is a stupid goal to have—I would rather be healthy and chubby than have a thigh gap. Friends, please love your bodies no matter what. I eat protein powder smoothies and as much healthy good food as I can, but it's hard because of...

It's hard to eat when your body doesn't want food. This comes and goes: sometimes I'm hungry and will eat a lot (for me, which is still not as much as I used to eat), other times I struggle with just drinking water. Sometimes I'll be nauseous for a whole day. This is really frustrating, because cooking is something I usually love and want to do (it's even stress-relieving), but I can't do it as much as I used to anymore.

In the past two months I have gained a newfound appreciation for people who struggle with insomnia. In the middle of most nights I wake up hot and sweaty. For me it's not a drenching sweat, but I'm usually cold all of the time so the fact that I'm getting hot enough to get sweaty is a very new and very weird experience. Occasionally it's hard to fall back asleep. Lying there in the dark, my mind will sometimes wander, and I end up thinking about what the next few months are going to be like, and then I cry. At that point, Derek always will wake up and hold me until I've calmed down and fallen asleep. He's the best.

I now keep a thermometer on my bedside table (weird, I know) and I use it at least once a day. I've only caught myself with a fever during the day once (100.4 is my record so far), but what's hilarious is that I didn't realize that I had a fever. I'm almost always cold, unless I have a fever, in which case I feel room temperature/mildly warm. Hilarious.

And then there are my swollen lymph nodes. I have a few lumps in my neck, and one uncomfortable one in my right armpit. They don't hurt, they just feel weird. (After PET/CT scan, turns out I've got a bunch in my chest and also in my other armpit. But they are nestled down deep so I can't feel them).

This one is a biggie too. Having cancer can be scary, makes you think a lot, and also means you're gonna cry a lot. It's frustrating having a weak body that won't sleep through the night and doesn't want to eat delicious food. I cry a lot: when I'm alone in the bathtub, when I call my mom, with my friends, when people are nice to me, with Derek, on my pillow, just a lot. And it's not that I'm sad all of the time, there are just so many emotions that need to get out, and crying helps. 

Even though all of this sounds pretty terrible, it's not all bad all the time. I have good days and bad days. On bad days I can get sad, or lonely, or mad that I don't want to eat my favorite foods, or that I can't sleep for four hours in the middle of the night. But on good days I want to see people, I have energy to go grocery shopping, food tastes good and I feel rested. So it's a mixed bag.

So that's what it's like to have cancer. I don't really recommend it, so take care of your body and don't get cancer! 

How naptime went down yesterday:


  1. Sarah, Golly I am sorry to hear this. I am not sorry to see you are still the amazing girl you were growing up. We are sending prayers to you both and I know you are Heavenly Fathers hands right now. Know I will be thinking of you and praying for here in AZ. God Bless sweet Sarah, <3

  2. Sarah Kay, just want you to know that you are constantly in my prayers and thoughts. You are UH-mazing. I don't know you very well, but from afar I can tell what a beacon of light you are to all those around you. It was a pleasure to help at your reception in VB. You and Derek are an extremely special couple indeed; a force of love and light to teach others. I am very sorry for the trial that you have to endure right now. I know that Heavenly Father is there with you always. We love you. Have Ishel give you a big squeeze for us!